News Feature | July 12, 2017

Another Military Base Suspected Of Drinking Water Contamination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

pentagon reg new

A military site in Massachusetts is suspected of polluting drinking water supplies, a sign that the apparent scope of the military contamination problem is still growing.

At a time when outrage is growing among lawmakers over contamination by the military in their states, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield is under investigation as a potential source of contamination for local drinking water supplies. Testing concluded in June, but results will not be available until November 30, The Westfield News reported.

“The investigation is related to the contamination of Westfield groundwater with perfluorinated compounds perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS),” the report said.

“The Guard is suspected of contaminating private and public wells with toxic chemicals known as [perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs]. The chemicals allegedly came from firefighting foam used at Barnes Regional Airport and the Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Wing from the 1950s to the 1980s,” The Republican reported.

State officials had expressed irritation with the base for stalling on testing in previous months.

“[A state environmental official] said the National Guard did not respond to an order issued in October to investigate the private well contamination. MassDEP sent a second letter on Dec. 21, and the guard then promised to investigate. The Guard said it would act if a link is found between the foam and the contamination,” the report said.

When the military is slow to act, funding questions emerge for municipalities as they try to clean up contamination.

“In the meantime, Westfield has been paying for contamination-related projects out of its own pocket, said city water systems engineer Heather Miller, also a member of the aquifer committee,” the report said.

The military is in the midst of testing for contamination at hundreds of sites across the country. The effort to test nearly 400 sites has cost over $150 million, but critics say it has been "slow and seemingly disjointed," according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The U.S. EPA issued a health advisory last year about exposure to PFCs. Research has tied them to cancer.

To read more about PFCs visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "The Pentagon," David B. Gleason © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: